If we are material beings living in a material world--and all the scientific evidence suggests that we are--then we must find existential meaning, if there is such a thing, in this physical world. We must cast our lot with the natural rather than the supernatural. Many Westerners with spiritual (but not religious) inclinations are attracted to Buddhism--almost as a kind of moral-mental hygiene. But, as Owen Flanagan points out in The Bodhisattva’s Brain, Buddhism is hardly naturalistic.
Animals live in a world of other minds, human and nonhuman, and their well-being and survival often depends on what is going on in the minds of these other creatures. But do animals know that other creatures have minds? And how would we know if they do? In Mindreading Animals, Robert Lurz offers a fresh approach to the hotly debated question of mental-state attribution in nonhuman animals.
The presence of sentience in a basically material reality is among the mysteries of existence. Many philosophers of mind argue that conscious states and properties are nothing beyond the matter that brings them about. Finding these arguments less than satisfactory, Gerald Vision offers a nonphysicalist theory of mind. Revisiting and defending a key doctrine of the once widely accepted school of philosophy known as emergentism, Vision proposes that conscious states are emergents, although they depend for their existence on their material bases.
Consciousness is a wonderful thing. But if we are fully to appreciate the wonder of consciousness, we need to articulate what it is about consciousness that makes it such an interesting and important phenomenon to us. In this book, Harold Langsam argues that consciousness is intelligible--that there are substantive facts about consciousness that can be known a priori--and that it is the intelligibility of consciousness that is the source of its wonder.
People can be disgusted by the concrete and by the abstract–by an object they find physically repellent or by an ideology or value system they find morally abhorrent. Different things will disgust different people, depending on individual sensibilities or cultural backgrounds. In Yuck!, Daniel Kelly investigates the character and evolution of disgust, with an emphasis on understanding the role this emotion has come to play in our social and moral lives.
The language of thought (LOT) approach to the nature of mind has been highly influential in cognitive science and the philosophy of mind; and yet, as Susan Schneider argues, its philosophical foundations are weak.
In Laws, Mind, and Free Will, Steven Horst addresses the apparent dissonance between the picture of the natural world that arises from the sciences and our understanding of ourselves as agents who think and act. If the mind and the world are entirely governed by natural laws, there seems to be no room left for free will to operate. Moreover, although the laws of physical science are clear and verifiable, the sciences of the mind seem to yield only rough generalizations rather than universal laws of nature.
Some things are funny—jokes, puns, sitcoms, Charlie Chaplin, The Far Side, Malvolio with his yellow garters crossed—but why? Why does humor exist in the first place? Why do we spend so much of our time passing on amusing anecdotes, making wisecracks, watching The Simpsons? In Inside Jokes, Matthew Hurley, Daniel Dennett, and Reginald Adams offer an evolutionary and cognitive perspective. Humor, they propose, evolved out of a computational problem that arose when our long-ago ancestors were furnished with open-ended thinking.
Do you dream in color? If you answer Yes, how can you be sure? Before you recount your vivid memory of a dream featuring all the colors of the rainbow, consider that in the 1950s, researchers found that most people reported dreaming in black and white. In the 1960s—when most movies were in color and more people had color television sets—the vast majority of reported dreams contained color. The most likely explanation for this, according to philosopher Eric Schwitzgebel, is not that exposure to black-and-white media made people misremember their dreams.
In Our Own Minds, Radu Bogdan takes a developmental perspective on consciousness—its functional design in particular—and proposes that children's functional capacity for consciousness is assembled during development out of a variety of ontogenetic adaptations that respond mostly to sociocultural challenges specific to distinct stages of childhood.